Music Reviews



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Artist: EXAUDI Ensemble
Title: Exposure
Format: CD
Label: Huddersfield Contemporary Records (@)
Rated: *****
Have you ever suffered from that kind of hyperkulturemia that let you feel observed by family portraits or the people within framed paintings with arcadian or pastoral scenes inhabited by naked nymphes, fauns, puttoes and archers? If so, imagine they can finally speak and sings in order to jeet at your syndrome: they could probably sound like the opening 14-minutes lasting track Aaron Cassidy's "A painter of figures in rooms" by London-based Exaudi, an amazing vocal ensemble which seems to explore a possible bridge between canonic vocal music belonging to the traditions of early Baroque and High Renaissance and contemporary music. Founded by director James Weeks and soprano Juliet Fraser, the ensemble changes "register" on the following "Nakedness", where the first evanescent whisper-like vocals suddenly grows in intensity till those acutes which could break glasses on a solo-voice great piece which contrast with the above-mentioned sometimes chaotic and disquieting juxtaposition of voices and neighs(!), a vocal strategy which semms to have been followed by Bryn Harrison on "Eight Voices", even if the repetitiveness of its vocalisations sometimes get closer to monodic monotony. The ensemble deliberately plays with ambiguousness on Stephen Chase's five Jandl Songs ("why can i not", "trost in wolken", "suchen wissen", the heavenly "lied/song" and the buzzing "mein") settings by Austrian poet and translator Ernst Jandl (John Cage's fans maybe knows his name for his translation of "Silence"), as it's not clear if single voices are somehow matched or not. Another interesting experiment by the ensembles is the treble "Harmonizing (Artificial Environment no.7)" by Joanna Bailie, where vocals get closer (particularly on the second movement "William Tell") to onomatopoeic and scenic rendering, but according to my personal ear response the most fascinating experiments are the two final tracks where the remarkable hypnotical power of the slow oscillation on Richard Glover's "Corradiation" flows into the speckled and flippant vignettes of Claudia Molitor's "lorem ipsum". Exaudi provided one of the most amazing voice-based record I've ever heard.
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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues, Bertrand Gauguet, Ricardo Guerreiro
Title: Early Reflections
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This collaborative recording by Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and Ricardo Guerreiro on computer, with the guest appearance of Bertrand Gauguet on alto saxophone is maybe the most abstract release by this musical liason. I'm pretty sure that the most demanding listeners whose ears are trained to those free improvisational sessions which get closer to pure abstract sound art and reductionism will appreciate this long-lasting recording that this trio made in studio ("Wood") and on live stage ("Stone") by following more or less the same operational mode, where electronic sounds emphasize the lenghty tonal sequence where tones themselves seem to be like accidental events that meet Gauguet's breath and Rodrigues's rubbing and manage to excite listener's imagination. For instance the first part of "Stone" and the gradual saturation occurring between 18th and 21st minute could let you imagine about the sudden awakening in the middle of a nocturnal labyrinthine cornfield where the chirping of cicadas or the nearby flight of other nocturnal insects become frightening moments of a nightmarish rural experience. If you consider "Early Reflections" under an exquisitely technical viewpoint, the delicate manoeuvring on dynamics and sonic "consistency" as well as on surreal chromatic grasps of these two sessions is really remarkable.
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Artist: Islaja
Title: SUU
Format: CD
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Rated: *****
All those ones who know Finnish musician Merja Kokkonen aka Islaja for her foggy ethereal folk songs won't easily recognise her new musical skin or I'd rather call it her spacesuit for leisure time as you could have the impression that she collected many space-disco debris in order to make sonic collages between bewiching concision and limp roaming, whose osseous structures together with the alternance of lukewarm simple syth-driven melodies and frigid fixity fit with Gurun Gut's label Monika Enterprise aesthaetics as well as the iridescent temperament that Islaja shows on her songs where she sometimes disguise as a protective tiger, a predatory nocturnal wild beast or a poetess who doesn't need to be understood. Both under the musical and lyrical viewpoints, her songs have a tendency to wander off in daydreams or mantain a suitable distance with human emotions or listening gatecrashers in her personal world, that she lets just half-view. Some moments could surmise some stuff by The Knife, Nico, the above-mentioned Gudrun Gut or even some glossy artifacts from the 80ies, but there are many original clues that could let you think that Islaja just hangs off her own SUU's (Finnish word for mouth) words.
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Artist: Peter K Frey / Daniel Studer (@)
Title: Zwirn
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Recorded on 13th May 2011 at MUG/Munich Undergorund as a part of the subsonicspace 2011 on the occasion of Offene Ohren, this improvised concert by talented Swiss double-bass players Peter K.Frey and Daniel Studer, whose collaboration came after they played together at Domino orchestra by Markus Eichenberger, belongs to one of those performance that more voracious listeners keep on looking for. They wisely overworked their beloved instruments by a remarkable set of performative unconventional strategies, which include rubbing, dampers, sliding, wringing, hitting and plucking of strings with no use of amplifiers, computers or digital filters in order to stretch the expressive powers of double-bass out. The seven tracks of this recording show a whirlwind of amazing transfigurations of this instrument: I particularly enjoyed the three parts of "Zwei Punkt", where some echoes of the sinewy performances by Stefano Scodanibbio could come to mind in between pleated tailspins and tonal declivities.
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Artist: Fatima Al Qadiri (@)
Title: Asiatisch
Format: CD
Label: Hyperdub (@)
Rated: *****
The choice of opening her debut album by "Shanzai" - a word which refers to the Chinese counterfeiting of Western brands and goods, even if the original meaning of the term refers to an out-of-control territory ruled by bandits... -, a nonsensical Mandarin cover of Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares To U", whose inspirational romanticism could turn a daydreaming song into a sort of nightmare where that song could be considered the musical emblem of a cultural transplantation (or I'd rather call it a proper inoculation) of Western cultural memes into Chinese chaotic declension of consumerism's seeds which goes over a simple act of counterfeiting, the conceptual framework of this great release by brilliant conceptual artist Fatima Al Qadiri, has been labelled as "brave" whereas I think it's a remarkable brainwave and a wise hatchway to give listeners access on unstable stiletto to this meaningful stylistical mashup, which overarches Western cliches about such a cultural amalgamation. While O Connor's dinner in a fancy restaurant could be replaced by a sad chuanr of starfish over a foggy street in Shangai or by a bowl of tear-flavored mala beef daoxiaomein, the following tracks manage to recall modern China and possible visions of a futuristic evolution by robot-like Chinese vocal samples andtrapping chorals, entrnacing flutes, delicate synth-driven melodies, steel drums and other elements, which could let you think of a possible attempt of forgery of Western synth-music tradition as the last stage and marking of an imaginary challenge to step a fake up. In spite of its connection with so-called "sinogrime", a branch of grime that got developed in South London between 2002 and 2005 where exotic elements from Eastern sonorities got integrated into grime patterns, Fatima's debut release is one of the smartest hybridization I've ever heard.
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